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Adoption: Where do we start?

As November begins, our thoughts naturally turn to “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Thanksgiving and Christmas are both holidays that are filled with feelings of joy and gratitude, good food, generous gifts and time with our family. There is a basic assumption that everyone enjoys this time of year equally, and those who don’t may often feel ignored and left out. We all know those who have lost loved ones, and we are sensitive to their feelings of loss during this time of year. However, there is another set of individuals for whom the holidays are difficult.


November begins Adoption Awareness month, and while we will take time this month to celebrate those children and families who have completed their adoptions, it is important to acknowledge those who still dream about it. While many feel full because of the blessings we have, there are also those who feel a sense of emptiness because they desperately seek to add to their family.


For those who are considering adoption, regardless of their motivation, the process can seem overwhelming. Do we pursue domestic or international adoption? Private or foster care? Do I choose an agency? If so, which one? How much does it cost? How long will it take? What if a placement falls through? On top of this, everybody seems to have a horror story or a friend

who had a terrible experience. The prospect of adopting is full of fear and uncertainty.


The reality is that there are several ways to adopt, and each has its risks and rewards. Much of the decision-making process depends on your specific situation and your motivation for pursuing it. Regardless of the type of adoption one chooses, each one involves

a home study process, background checks, and a legal component. Also, it is very important for all families to focus on providing a home for a child who needs it. Here we will outline the most common pathways for adoption, and in future posts we will discuss the process of adoption, myths and realities of adoption and ways we can support adoptive families.


Domestic Infant Adoption


Summary: In domestic infant adoption, families seek to provide a home for a newborn infant. This process involves having an approved home study, completing training specific to adoptive families, and putting together a profile that is shown to families who are interested in placing their child for adoption. Annual updates are required for families.

Waiting Times: The waiting time can vary greatly, from a few months to several years. This can depend on several factors, including location and the family’s openness to different backgrounds.

Approximate Costs: According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, average costs for an agency adoption can range from $20,000 to $45,000 or even more. These costs typically include agency fees, legal fees, home study fees, and medical expenses.

Considerations: I always encourage families to ask agencies about the financial risk they will have, especially regarding “pass-through costs.” These are the expenses that a birth parent may incur during the pregnancy. Some agencies pass all of these costs on to the potential adoptive family, while others have a limit on the amount a family will pay or other ways to protect the adoptive family if the adoption isn’t finalized. Another possible issue is whether an adoption is open or closed. In an open adoption families meet and know each other. While the amount of contact is variable, the adoptive family is able to maintain some sort of relationship with the biological family. In a closed adoption, the records are sealed and there is no contact.


International Adoption


Summary: International adoption involves adopting a child from another country and bringing them to your country to live permanently. Children adopted internationally are automatically granted citizenship upon arrival to the US. International adoption is regulated by the Hague Convention, which established international standards for adoption. Because of this adoption is not available from every country.

Waiting Times: The waiting times for International Adoption can vary widely depending on the country involved and the availability of children. It can range from 1-2 years to several years.

Approximate Costs: International adoption costs can vary significantly depending on the country and agency. The Child Welfare Information Gateway from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that on average, costs can range from $20,000 to $50,000 or more. This includes adoption agency fees, immigration and visa expenses, travel costs, and legal fees.

Considerations: While International Adoption entails fewer risks in terms of failed placements, it does pose different set of challenges. First, many children available for adoption in other countries are older and likely have some sort of special need, whether medical, physical or developmental. In addition, the vast differences in language and culture make the process of adjustment to a new home and attachment to caregivers much more complicated.


Foster Care Adoption


Summary: Foster care adoption involves adopting a child who is involved in the foster care system. Sometimes the family serves as a foster family until the child is able to be adopted, but other times they adopt a child who has been fostered in another home. In this scenario a family receives an initial home study and training to serve as a foster family. This includes identifying the qualities of a child one can care for. Foster parents are required to receive a certain number of hours of training and have their home study updated annually. There is a monthly stipend to assist with expenses, and they receive assistance from the Department of Community Based Services including respite care and community supports. Once a child is adopted, some of these helps expire, but children are eligible for additional assistance as they age, often including tuition vouchers for state colleges and universities.

Waiting Times: Waiting times for foster care adoption can vary, but they tend to be shorter than other types of adoption. It can take several months to a couple of years.

Approximate Costs: Foster care adoption is much less expensive than other types of adoption, with costs typically ranging from $0 to $2,500. In many cases, financial assistance and subsidies are available to help offset expenses.

Considerations: While this is a much less expensive option, there is a great deal more uncertainty. Children enter into foster care for many reasons, and the goal is most often to return children to their parents. Sometimes children can remain in foster care for a long time, only to be returned to their biological family.



Private or Independent Adoption


Summary: Private or independent adoption involves adopting a child without the use of an adoption agency. This can occur primarily through direct placement by birth parents. In Kentucky, attorneys are not able to act as an intermediary or match families with birth families. Potential adoptive families are still required to complete training and the home study process with an agency licensed in the state of their residence, and they must go through a legal process of finalizing their adoption in court.

Waiting Times: Waiting times can vary significantly depending on the specific circumstances of the adoption. It may take several months to a year or more.

Approximate Costs: Costs can vary widely. While in this option agency fees may be non-existent, legal fees and other expenses can still add up. Costs can range from a few thousand dollars to $40,000 or more.

Considerations: If a family is aware of a specific child who is available for adoption this can be a very good option. However, the absence of an agency to facilitate the relationship with the birth parent and support the adoptive family can create opportunities for either party to be taken advantage of.


As you can see, there are many options available to the family or individual who is considering adoption. While we hope this is helpful, we encourage anyone who wants more information to contact us at adoption@familyenrichmentcenter.com.


Helpful Links

Family Enrichment Center – Our agency recruits foster families for the state of Kentucky and conducts monthly trainings for approved foster families. We also provide ongoing support for adoptive families.

Kentucky Adoption Coalition – This is a group of licensed private adoption agencies in the state of Kentucky. The information will help you determine what agencies provide the services that you are seeking.

KY FACES – This is the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services website that provides information about foster care and adoption as well as links to begin the process.

KY Kids Belong – This link provides information about children in Kentucky who are available for adoption and waiting for a home. Children here are typically between the ages of 10 and 17.



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